Whether we realize it or not we actually seek help all the time. We talk to our friends, our family, our clergy and sometimes even total strangers on the street when there is something on our minds. We call this using our natural resources. Using the support of the people around us helps us get through the day or other trying times. So how do we know when we need to seek out professional help? Well, if you're wanting more than your natural supports can provide therapy might be a great way to supplement what they are doing for you. You can and will continue to use your natural supports while you're in therapy. As a matter of fact you might even find that you are using them more effectively. You may find that you're able to enjoy the supportive times with your natural supports because you have a therapeutic environment to unload the other stuff that was weighing you down.
If you find yourself censoring your feelings or yourself when you talk to your natural supports that's a sign that you're not comfortable in some way. You might be afraid of sharing a side of yourself they don't typically get to see. Or you may be worried what they'll think of some of your thoughts or behaviors. Or maybe it's just not appropriate to share that much information in that relationship (think TMI!) Whatever the reason if you're not able to share the story as it really happened then it might be time to look for a therapist to help you sort things out.
Closely related to censoring is substituting parts of the story. Sometimes we can't talk freely with our natural supports because they know the people in our story. Maybe we know our sister feels a certain way about our significant other. That leads us to change the story because we don't want to hear her say "I told you so". Or maybe we change the story because we don't have permission to spill someone else's beans. Again, if you find yourself substituting parts of your story to protect yourself or someone else's feelings or image then you're not getting the support you desire because you're not able to tell your truth.
Finally, maybe you know your natural supports love you so much, yet, there is absolutely no way they can be objective. If they are always going to cosign your mess then you've got a problem. We all need a truth teller in our lives. Whether we like it or not the truth helps us see ourselves and grow into the people we want to become. If you don't have people who can be fully objective with you, then you need someone in your life to fill that role. A therapist may be a support to add to your team. Someone who is invested in helping you become who you want to be. Who can listen with an objective ear and help you see things you may have missed. Help you identify your blind spots and find ways to work around them. The bottom line is, if you're asking the question "how do I know if I need a therapist", it might be time to give therapy a try. Are you in?